Much has been made of investing in health IT, but with the high cost of purchase and implementation, determining IT's actual value is murkier. One proposal in the American Journal of Managed Care suggests a framework for a better sense of the value of health IT.
The paper, published Jan. 26, outlines three major principles: value includes both costs and benefits; value accrues over time; and value depends on who is evaluating it.
Too often, studies report only the costs or proxy costs for health IT, which gives a slanted view of what a piece of technology is actually worth. The authors acknowledged that it is not practical to evaluate every potential benefit as a measure of value, but asserted that studies that only measure one or the other are not accurate.
Value also increases over time as the physician becomes more adept at using the technology and the short-term costs balance out, the authors said. Patients may also experience more value because of improved tracking of care over time and a reduction in errors. That contributes to the perspective principle of evaluating value: a physician may be exasperated with the system, but if his or her staff runs more smoothly and there are fewer errors, the system could be judged as valuable.
The immediate value of health technology may be difficult to perceive, the authors concluded, so it is "important for studies of HIT value to state how they expect the market to respond to the effect of the technology, including the time frame in which these changes may be reasonably expected to occur."